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JAMMU: As the entire world gears up to celebrate International Women’s Day tomorrow, the State of Jammu and Kashmir which is already fraught with many challenges including armed conflict and violence, is facing many other confronting situations with regard to its girls and women. A major challenge that the state is witnessing these days is the abandoning of its new born babies in Kashmir. Mrs. Gulzara Masoodi, Member, J&K State Commission for Women who is also a well known educationist of Kashmir, speaks about all such challenges, on the eve of International Women’s day tomorrow. Excerpts from her interview.  

Kashmir has seen an increase in the cases of abandoning of the babies, especially the new born girls. How do you see it?  

My heart bleeds as I hear about the number of such cases wherein newly born baby girls have been abandoned in Srinagar. This is an alarming situation. Our Kashmir, at one point of time, had no such social issues which have turned into crisis. We never had orphans as joint families would take care of such children. But now this trend is disturbing. I am shocked to see the diminished values and ethos of our culture. This is not our Kashmiri culture. I exhort people to come forward on this International Women’s Day and put a stop to such things which are giving us a bad name. This degradation has to stop.  

Jammu and Kashmir has already seen a downslide in child sex ratio in Census 2011. How do you see this and what is the Commission doing in this regard?  

Yes. We saw a decline in Female Sex ratio and despite the provision of PC&PNDT Act to check all ultrasound clinics which are indulging in the unauthorized determination of sex of the fetus, these practices are continuing. We have to act as a society. How can we forget that if we kill the girls in the wombs itself, there will not be many of them left and this would create an uneven society resulting in the increase in the violence against women and girls? Already we are seeing a sharp increase in the cases of violence against girl child. Only yesterday, a 3 year old girl who was playing with her 5 year old brother in a state, was raped in front on him. What has happened to our society? I am aggrieved.  

But what are you doing in this regard?  

I, as the Member, of J&K State Commission for Women, am doing lot of counseling of young mothers, grandparents and the other members of the society. I make them understand that this disturbing trend of female foeticide in the state would create major problems which they are not able to apprehend right now. I am trying my bit.  

What need to be done in our society?  

Such things are not allowed in Islam and that’s why I exhort the Kashmiri society to put a stop to such practices. We need to check our evils also including dowry, domestic violence and now these issues. You cannot see any issue in isolation. All such issues are interlinked. The government had already tried to take the help of religious preachers but we need to go for it at a big scale as a society. The people need to understand that when a female like Ms Mehbooba Mufti can become the chief minister, why the girls cannot achieve what they aspire their boys to achieve. Today, girls are scaling the heights worldwide. So, the girls should be allowed to be born.  

Women of our state, especially of Kashmir are among the most vulnerable groups. We have widows, half widows, unmarried girls; displaced women due to border shelling, illiterate women and girls, the issues are many. Violence against women is increasing, she has poor and low status, lack of education is a major hindrance to her empowerment and there is not much awareness, so plenty of issues.

Our hon’ble chief minister Ms. Mehbooba Mufti is the first female chief minister of the state and she is also totally alive to the situation of the women. Women empowerment is one of the top agendas of her government. She has started a scheme by the name “Laadli Beti” on the name of her late father and former chief minister of our state Mufti Sayeed sahib under which Rs 1000 is being given to the family of the girl child. This remarkable social security scheme is aimed at creating a strong positive disposition towards the girl child and reverses the alarming trend of declining child sex ratio in the State. But the sad part is that many people living in far off areas do not know about such schemes. We at Commission need to spread awareness about these schemes which addresses the concerns of girl’s right from birth to adulthood by providing financial security to them.

What is your message to the people on the eve of International women’s Day?  

I just want to say that we as a society need to work collectively and handle all issues like late marriages of the girls; dowry, domestic violence etc; the patriarchal set up has to be sensitive towards all such issues. Islam says a father with three daughters will go to heaven. Then why this discrimination with the girl child! Why she is being abandoned! Let’s take a pledge this International woman’s days to work for these little girls and women. Only then we can have a society which is at peace with itself.

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SRINAGAR: Hailing from a remote village of Jammu and Kashmir’s Bandipora district, the 24-yrs-old Shameema Akhter via her talent and exuberance has revived the love of music among millions of people and is emerging as a prominent Sufi singer. Shameema who has dozens of songs to her credit via her singing is on way to unite people with their roots through music under which she has now decided to release at least one song every month for her fans based in Kashmiris and outside the valley.

Taking note of her melodious voice, the Optimystix Entertainment India Limited have shortlisted Shameema for singing reality television show ‘Rising Star’ to be broadcast on Colors channel owned by Viacom 18 Private Limited. Recently Shameema Akhter came into the spotlight after she released a video song in Kashmiri language titled ‘Be Aar Madano’ on Youtube, written by Late Lala Sahib Aragami, a well known Sufi poet from north Kashmir. The song despite being in Kashmiri language touched the hearts of thousands of people outside the Kashmir valley. 

Shameema in a bid to revive the love of music has teamed up with a renowned musician Mazhar Siddiqui under the banner of SM Records where she not only sings Kashmiri language songs but also in various other regional languages including Hindi, Punjabi and Pahadi. Talking to KNB, Shameema Akhter stated that we the youth have to always come up with novel ideas to promote Kashmiri culture and music. It was easy because music is the easiest way to promote culture. Good lyrics, tunes and voice enthrall even those people who do not even understand your language. 

Her passion for music led her to many different places, traveling all over India. She presently resides in Lucknow city for the reasons what she says “to give wings to her career in music.” I love being in the studio. I’ve been afforded some amazing opportunities to record and explore my musical self with a great deal of autonomy and I am always open to sharing my part of knowledge with youngsters and ready to help them wherever they require it , but they should also be having a tough mettle to thrive and survive,” Shameema added. 

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JAMMU: Sangeet Natak Akademi awardee and ace Theatre director Mushtaq Kak was awarded by Ashirwad Rangmandal, Begusarai in Bihar on February 1st, 2018 for his outstanding work in the field of Performing arts. Every year, Ashirwad Rangmandal honors best known Theatre personalities for their stupendous execution in performing arts and this year, “Rangkarmi Ramvinay Rang sammaan” – 2017 will be conferred to Mushtaq Kak for his exceptional state of the art work. Kak was given a shawl, memento and Rs 2 lakh cash.

Earlier, Mushtaq Kak has been conferred with numerous awards including “Sangeet Natak Akademi award in year 2015 and his work on the stage as a director is marked by precision in design and his plays unfold in a realistic style, avoiding superfluous elements to concentrate on the sense of the scene and in this process, he creates a production which is unpretentious and neat. Mushtaq Kak has also worked as director in Shri Ram Centre for performing arts for 10 years. He is the only Theatre personality of Jammu and Kashmir who is invited to teach design, direction and act as faculty member several repertory companies across the globe. In addition to this, Mr. Kak is also a significant member of scores of committees.

It is pertinent to mention here that Mushtaq Kak who has directed more than 100 plays in Dogri, Hindi, English and even in Sanskrit at various parts of the country and abroad has attended Global Culture Summit 2017 at Abu Dhabi earlier this year in April 2017, a high-level international summit hosted by Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority and presented in conjunction with publishers of Foreign Policy Magazine The FP Group, Washington and TCP Ventures, New York which was attended by world’s top creative minds from over 80 countries.